Intensive Dairy Farming - Is this the way to do it? (BBC Countryfile)

Uploaded by lauyanyameric on 22.11.2010

The Midwest.
Farming on an industrial scale here is a way of life.
Back home there are controversial plans to copy the American model
to build the biggest dairy we've ever seen in the UK,
where thousands of cows will be milked around the clock.
I've come to the States to see what's in store for us.
The first leg of my road trip is to Wisconsin,
to a super dairy, home to 4,000 cows.
They're housed in barns each the length of 5 football pitches,
and is managed by vet, Dr Gordie Jones.
These cows never go outside?
eh… I'm afraid these cows never go outside.
And the cows here, are walking along in alleyway…
so they can come and graze, they stick their heads through the windows here,
and then they go and lie in their beds.
and that's all they do?
That's all a cow does. A cow is truly a couch potato.
A milking cow will eat 3-5 meals of 15… 18… 25 minute meals,
She'll milk for 3 hours.
1 hour, 3 times a day.
and then she'll spend 16… 14… 18 hours a day laying in her cubicle, chewing her cud,
so she's truly a couch potato.
if she had a TV and a remote control, she'll be in heaven.
Next stop, the maternity unit.
So looks like this one just calved, Gordie?
This one just had her baby.
and, she's one of 10 calves that will be born today.
That's amazing, isn't it?
These 3 cows behind us, just had their babies. (Yea.)
so within the last 2-4 hours, they've had their babies.
We've taken babies away. We've given baby colostrum.
and then they move on to the role in the milking-hood.
and obviously, to produce milk, these cows have got to be giving birth.
Every cow and every dairy industry has to give her birth every year.
so it's the same as the deer in the woods, the same as the robins.
The object of life is to have more life. (laugh)
so our cows have to have babies.
If she's a baby girl… and we'll go take a little look. Let's take a look.
If she's a baby girl, she'll be raised and then she'll become a replacement.
And, she's a little girl.
so she will be milking in this parlor what, in 2 years time?
2 years. (Yeah.)
But for mom, the maternity leave doesn't last that long.
They are back at work the next day.
They stand on here really quiet, don't they?
They do. They don't vocalize. They don't make any manure. They… they vote with their behavior.
They'll tell you they are happy, or not happy.
Each one of these girls get milked 3 times a day.
That's 9,000 milkings at a farm for Gordie and his team.
Every cow here produces up to 60 pints of milk a day.
which is 1.5 times the average of a cow from the UK.
Oh I see, so they are just walking in from the shed. (They are walking in here)
We'll milk 500 cows an hour on this parlour with 4 people.
So, our efficiency is pretty incredible.
And I know, as a farmer, a cow chewing her cud, she's regurgitating her food.
and they only do that when they are relaxed, don't they?
yeah, if they have anything else to think about they won't bring that up.
(yeah) they won't bring it up.
but they need to bring it up to chew it, to reduce its size.
but if you… if I start making loud noises, or wave my hands a lot,
they'll all swallow their cud and now look at us to decide what's going to happen.
I call this the zoo view.
This is the view at the zoo, only now you are the animal at the zoo. (laughing)
She's looking down at you and I as the captive.
Gordie has been a key advisor to the company behind the mega dairy plants in Lincolnshire in the UK.
a style of farming that not every one will be happy about.
But what about public perception? Have you had much opposition?
Well certainly… yes. America has lost touch with agriculture.
They think dairy farming is a Fisher Price toy.
Little red barn, 12 cows, 2 chickens, a pig, and whatever.
and that model is not sustainable anymore.
One of the challenges in the next 40 years: We'll have 9 billion people on this planet.
In the next 40 years, we have to make as much food as we've made since the beginning of time, on a planet-wide scale.
But, is this the way to do it?
As much as it goes against the grain for me, Gordie is very convincing,
and I'm starting to think it might be.
And surely with the dairy this scale, what you are doing is setting the precedent for cheap milk.
Well, we are certainly an efficient business. That's why we got to this size.
The problem with that is people who say,
Well we need to maintain the 40-cow dairy.
Well, those people want cheap cars, cheap televisions.
They want everything in their life cheap.
Well, they want their food cheap.
and even though they may say, they want to save that 40-cow dairy,
nobody is willing to vote with their wallet, to keep that dairy in existence.
Back home I keep rare breed cows, and they wander around the Coltswald hills,
and i think, have a pretty happy life.
so, as a farmer, to come and see so many dairy cattle under one roof, that never go outdoors,
it's a pretty alien environment for me.
But I have to say, they seem to be very well looked after and very content.
and Gordie's enthusiasm was infectious.
But seeing cows kept indoors like that on such a grand scale really makes you wonder, you know…
Is their life a pretty sorry existence?
In the UK, some of the most vocal opponents of the proposed mega dairy in Lincolnshire,
are the small dairy farmers who are convinced they will be driven out of business.
so, are they right?
Is that what's happened here in the States?
Next stop on my road trip across the Midwest, is to Sarah Lloyd's farm in the heart of Wisconsin.
She has 300 cows, a far cry from Central Sands.
You must be Sarah. (Yeah, Hello!)
So, all girl here?
Yeah, 28,000 pounds of milk off the door.
Fantastic. Some lovely calves.
Yeah, and I'm just feeding them right now. (C'mon sweetie…)
The mommy help feeding stuff. (Yeah)
I like doing a bit of farming when I'm away from home. (Yeah.)
I'm keen! (laugh)
Some farmers feel that big dairy farms get unfair tax breaks and government support,
and that the large concentration of animals put huge pressure on the countryside.
There's plans in England for a very big dairy in Lincolnshire. (Yeah)
What words of caution would you give to us back home?
Well, I just think we all need to be asking a lot of questions,
and I would tell the folks in England, you know,
What is this farm going to do?
em… who's going to work on this farm?
What about all the smaller businesses as supply firms?
Are they going to benefit from this larger firm?
Or, is this just going to push them out of business because they can't compete on a large scale?
so I just think people really need to ask a lot of questions.
What's going to happen with all the manure?
Are they going to spread all that manure?
What about all the water resources?
Can you support all the cows in what they need?
so I think that those are the questions we really need to be asking.
And I'm asking those questions myself.
Can the mega dairy and the smaller scale traditional farms both thrive together?
I'm off now to see a farm with 100 times more cows than Sarah's,
and there's only way to really see the true scale of it.
And it's not long before I see only part of, one of the biggest dairy farms on the planet.
The scale of this farming operation is absolutely enormous.
I've never seen anything like it in my life.
Each of these sheds has got about 3,000 cows in it,
and there's 10 units spread out across this farm.
And you can't any of their cows, because they are all indoors and never go outside.
and then, in the surrounding farmland, there's 17,000 acres that brings in all the food for all these cows…
makes my farmland look like an allotment.
So everything is just on a massive scale.
I feel quite shocked,
and it stinks up here,
really smells.
Massive slurry lagoon down there bubbling away.
This is factory dairy farming at the absolute extreme.
If you want efficiencies of scale and cheap milk, this is what you get.
I am heading down there to see how it works on the ground.
First though, it's back to Ellie in the UK.
She's in Monmouth finding out just how boars can help when you've got a castle to keep.